Greetings from Jerusalem. Today is Tuesday October 5th, our first full day of orientation. My team in Jerusalem has 5 people on it: Michael Hiller, an American living in Germany for the last 30+ years, Aster Boberg, from Sweden, Niku from Finland and Bernard from France. We range in age from 24 to 72.
We started off the day w/a general orientation, then attended a presentation at the UN OCHA offices which gave us a a brief overview of the current situation. We then met with the current Jerusalem team and began a 3 day orientation period with them.
The Jerusalem team reported that during Ramadan and Sukkot, things were relatively quiet. Since the end of Ramadan, however, things have started getting tense in the Jerusalem area again. There are approximately 90 Palestinian homes in Silwan that are scheduled for demolition because the Israeli government wants to establish an archeological park where the houses are currently standing. Our work will involve visiting Silwan, monitoring the demolition orders, meeting with community leaders and attending a weekly demonstration.
In Sheikh Jarrah, an area north of the old city, there are two areas where a number of Palestinian families are being threatened with eviction. Although they own the homes on the land, the Israelis claim that they are entitled to possession of the land as the property was allegedly owned by Israeli Jews prior to 1948. The Israeli courts have routinely accepted these claims on behalf of Israelis, but have consistently denied the claims of Palestinians asserting the same legal claims. As with Silwan, we will be monitoring the situation, meeting with community leaders and attending regular demonstrations in support of the Sheikh Jarrah population.
The rest of this week we will be taken to the various sites visited by the current team. On Wednesday we will visit Silwan, the Jahalin Bedouin Camp and Sheikh Jarrah. On Thursday a.m. at 4:45 (go ahead laugh), I will be leaving to go to the Qalandia checkpoint for 3 hours, then on to a meeting with Saabeel, then on to Ma'ale Mikhmas, another Bedouin camp, very close to a settlement. Friday we will be attending Friday prayers in Silwan, the Women in Black demonstration in West Jerusalem and a demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah.